So sometimes you see things shared again and again on your twitter and facebook feeds and think – I need more than 140 characters to share my thoughts on this..
The article by the New York Times on How Silicon Valley Billionairesare changing education https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/technology/tech-billionaires-education-zuckerberg-facebook-hastings.html?mcubz=1&_r=0 requires a blog post.
Okay first, my background;
I am an Associate Professor and Apple Distinguished Educator – and I teach those studying to be teachers how to use technology in meaningful ways with kids (and also some practicing teachers). I have been a professor for 11 years and lead a 1 to 1 iPad program. So obviously I am an Apple fan but just to put myself in a adopter continuum – I will say I own two chromebooks, don’t have an Apple watch or iPad Pro and my first iPhone was a 6s Plus which I am still using. (and intend to for least another year) I try hard to be aware as many new technologies as I can and trends in education because it is my job to help my students learn about many technologies and choose which ones they want to use..
A lot of the innovations that they are talking about in the New York Times article are great, and in many cases these startups, while free now move to a freeium model – so while these things might be really useful now, the subscription costs (for which schools are not well set up) will be coming.
I find these also to be pockets of innovation – and don’t get me wrong we need pockets but I feel as though the large scale, company commitments were left off from this article. I appreciate the CEOs that spend their own money, but I also appreciate the large scale initiatives that are looking at larger changes to education.
For example, Google got a small shout out in their article for Google Suite (formerly known as Google Apps for Education) They said : “Already, more than half of the primary- and secondary-school students in the United States use Google services like Gmail in school.” A true statement and this free service has changed the workflow in so many schools. I can see it in my college students and practicing teachers getting their masters – we expect to collaborate in real time in our documents. Apple and Microsoft have just joined in on this, they are late the game, and don’t have the seamless nature to the collaboration yet. (ie.. they still have problems with conflicted copies etc..) However, educators are worried that this will become a freeium in the way that Dropbox SpaceRace gave free storage to University students and faculty and then forced us to pay once it was an important part of our workflow.
So definitely Google is changing productivity in education and is currently free. but what this article missed all together is more of the philanthropic nature of some of silicon valley’s work. I have had personal experience with ConnectED which is an initiative funded by Apple (100 million) in an agreement with the Obama White House.
ConnectED identified and gave grants to 114 of the most underserved schools in the US to transform education for some our of neediest students. https://www.apple.com/education/connectED/
I have had several opportunities to interact with the students and teachers at ConnectED and I can tell you that I believe this philanthropy is changing the lives and learning experiences of students, teachers and communities.
We have a Connect Ed school in Oklahoma City – Arthur Elementary (part of OKCPS) . This school was one of the first schools to get going with Connect ED. Not only are their teachers new iPads new ways with kids, many of whom are English Language Learners but they also have partnered with our College of Education to host practica students and student teachers. I have offered training to them and several of their teachers are pursuing masters’ degrees with us. Whenever I visit the school, I see many other educators from within OKCPS and other districts visiting to see how they can use technology to reach their students. Their impact is much greater than being measured.
In February, I was able to participate in a training for Connect ED leaders from about 75 schools that was put on by Apple. Meeting these educators who were not only preparing students to use technology but also providing for many of the basic physical and emotional needs of students who are often not in a stable environment and may need food, clothing and shelter was inspiring. These were some of the most dedicated educators I have ever met and I found myself inspired by their projects and stories. As part of this, Apple has been activating the Apple Distinguished Educator community to serve this group. In all of the examples in the NYT story, I did not see where educators were helping to lead these efforts. I can’t help but think of the other news story that keeps popping in my feed about the need for large reform and philanthropy about schools to include teachers. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-gates-education-20160601-snap-story.html
I know many people will say that Apple has an up side, by giving away 100 million in tech, training and apps they must be setting themselves up to sell more. But lets look back to 1986 – in 1986 they did the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) which is the still the gold standard for planning technology professional development programs for teachers. In the end, they added to the collective knowledge but the research but that project really did not change their sales that much. Much of what they learned has benefitted all tech companies and ed tech researchers.
I know that Microsoft and other companies spend a lot of money on education too.. but to my point, I think the NY times missed the boat here, individual commitments from CEOs to create new educational products is great, but so are company wide commitments especially those that have a strong educator input. Where is the talk of that?